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 CyberAlert. Tracking Media Bias Since 1996
Thursday October 15, 1998 (Vol. Three; No. 168)

Murderers Doing Work of Congress & Right; Cronkite Denounces Starr

1) Dan Rather's alliteration: "Republican-led Congress's fast-approaching impeach-the-President inquiry." Only FNC picked up on NPR's hit on Starr's ethics for advising Gil Davis in 1994.

2) Tuesday night Sam Donaldson gave a clause to the GOP take on education spending and CBS's Scott Pelley actually raised the ethics of Clinton fundraising for a Judiciary Committee member.

3) Those who murdered the gay student were "doing the work of the Congress," claimed ABC's Bill Maher. Katie Couric cited a "climate of anti-Gay hate" that's "fostered by" the "political right."

4) Walter Cronkite claimed Starr's probe is "more divisive" than Vietnam as he's hounding Clinton with "excessive zeal."


cyberno1.gif (1096 bytes)The charging of Eric Rudolph for the 1996 bombing in Olympic Park led ABC's World News Tonight and CBS Evening News on Wednesday night. CNN and NBC went first with the imminent budget deal and a report that Ken Starr advised Paula Jones lawyer Gil Davis in 1994 topped FNC's Fox Report. (The budget deal was announced later, at about 11pm ET.) CBS and FNC delivered full reports on the budget deal, but ABC held it to a few seconds. Though every network mentioned how Clinton won on getting money for 100,000 new teachers, none asked if that number is any less illusory than the 100,000 cops.

      Dan Rather offered an alliteration-filled introduction to a story on Henry Hyde's plans. The CBS and FNC anchors read an excerpt from Monica Lewinsky's goodbye letter to her neighbors at 700 New Hampshire Ave. NW, aka The Watergate. Dan Rather also warned viewers about a new inequality: the "Cyber Ceiling."

     Here are a few notes and quotes from the Wednesday night, October 14, evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight led with Eric Rudolph being charged with the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta. After explaining how he's thought to be still hiding in the woods of North Carolina and running soundbites of locals saying they wouldn't turn him in, ABC's John Miller concluded:
     "One investigator summed up the frustrating eight month hunt this way: First we appealed to people's civic duty by showing a wanted poster. Then to greed by adding a million dollar award. Now, we're appealing to people's conscience."

     Later, Peter Jennings read this short item about the budget deal: "In Washington today the White House and Republican leaders say they're in the process of completing the $500 billion spending bill which will keep the government running for another year. The White House is claiming it has won on a major sticking point: a billion dollar measure to hire 100,000 new teachers. Republicans point out that they win because the money's going to be controlled by local governments and not by federal bureaucracy."

     -- CBS Evening News. Bob Schieffer explained how this kind of last-minute showdown happens almost every year, noting that this year Clinton got the $1.1 billion he wanted for 100,000 new teachers. Pointing out how Democrats condemned the "do-nothing" Congress Schieffer highlighted a supporting CBS News/New York Times poll which found 72 percent can't name anything Congress has accomplished this year.

     Introducing a piece by Scott Pelley on Henry Hyde's plans to accelerate the process, Dan Rather intoned:
     "There are late-breaking developments as well tonight in the Republican-led Congress's fast-approaching impeach-the-President inquiry."
      Pelley explained that Hyde wants to prepare a stipulation list, asking the President to agree with the grand jury testimony of witnesses like Vernon Jordan and Monica Lewinsky. Hyde is also looking at consolidating the charges, but Pelley warned, Hyde says if Clinton refuses to stipulate the end of the year deadline could slip.

     Later in the show Rather found a new inequality to worry about -- the impact of fewer women than men being interested in computers. Over a graphic reading "Cyber Ceiling," he ominously announced: "There is new research out today on a gender gap in the world of computer technology. Whatever the reasons, there is one virtual certainty. As CBS's Diana Olick reports, in cyber space women face a disadvantage in high-paying, high-tech jobs."

      -- CNN's The World Today led with Jonathan Karl on the imminent budget deal. Or tried to. Viewers saw repeated delays in the airing of pre-taped segments as Karl stood live staring at the camera. He reported that Clinton got money for teachers, but not funds for school renovations. Highlighting how both sides agreed to $20 billion in "emergency spending" for farm aid, defense, troops in Bosnia and the Year 2000 computer problem, Karl uniquely pointed out: "It's the highest level of emergency spending since such funds were used to pay for the Persian Gulf War. The emergency category is not covered by last year's balanced budget agreement, making it a tempting place for added spending..."

     Next, Bob Franken explained how Henry Hyde, to keep on schedule, wants to scale back the number of charges by consolidating the 15 charges into fewer "core" charges, such as perjury and obstruction of justice.

     -- FNC's Fox Report at 7pm ET led with a piece by David Shuster on how Starr consulted with Gil Davis in 1994. Surprisingly, though probably due to its late afternoon disclosure, the story by NPR's Nina Totenberg was not picked up by any of the other networks. Shuster did not mention Totenberg, just cited NPR and reported that Davis now says Starr advised him on six occasions in 1994. Shuster continued: "Even though Starr was not investigating the President in 1994 when he was advising the lawyers for Jones, some legal experts say he had an ethical obligation to reveal any potential conflicts of interest."
     But Shuster also delivered Starr's side, explaining that a spokesman said it "was not a big deal four and a half years ago and is an old news story now. Gil Davis agrees. Late today he told Fox News that Starr had no interest in the Paula Jones allegations and was only willing to give advice on the question of whether a President could be sued while in office. Davis said it's ridiculous to suggest Starr should have even remembered the four- and-a-half year old conversation."

     Up next, Carl Cameron summarized how Hyde wishes to consolidate the charges, not drop any as the Washington Post reported Wednesday morning.

      -- NBC Nightly News led with the budget deal as David Bloom observed: "....and even Republicans concede that when it came to the biggest hurdle, money for education, they decided it was better to go home and campaign than stay and fight an embattled, but still popular President." Bloom explained how Clinton got his $1.1 billion for 100,000 teachers, but not his $5 billion for school construction. Clinton victories also included how the "Republicans abandoned their plan for a $80 billion tax cut, meaning the budget surplus is largely saved for Social Security." Bloom listed how Clinton lost this year on tobacco, a patients bill of right and campaign finance reform.


cyberno2.gif (1451 bytes)Tuesday night the deal with Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic which put off airstrikes topped the ABC and CNN evening shows. CBS led with Japan's parliament voting to bail out its small banks and NBC went first with layoffs at Merrill Lynch.

     Some brief highlights from the Tuesday, October 13, broadcast evening shows:

     -- ABC's World News Tonight. After ignoring Republican and conservative arguments all weekend (see the October 13 CyberAlert), on Tuesday Sam Donaldson gave a clause to the GOP view on education spending. In a story on how Clinton picked a fight over education because polls show his stand is popular, Donaldson recounted how he first proposed 100,000 teachers in his State of the Union address. Since then he's vetoed Republican bills "because the Republicans often attached private school voucher proposals to which the President objected." Now, Donaldson noted in finally giving the Republican take a few syllables, Republicans will "gladly provide the $1.1 billion for more teachers if it goes directly to local districts, without passing through federal programs as the President wants."

     -- CBS Evening News. Scott Pelley looked at the "shotgun wedding" which brought Democratic Maryland Governor Parris Glendening to an event with Clinton, a man he refused to stand near a month ago. "What a difference a poll makes," observed Pelley in explaining how Democrats who were attacking Clinton weeks ago now see it as beneficial to be with him. Pelley added this point cited by conservatives: "It's a strange election season that also raises ethical issues for the party. Last night Mr. Clinton raised a million dollars in part for Charles Schumer, a member of the very committee that will vote on impeachment."

     -- NBC Nightly News. No mention of the budget or scandal, other than the "Nightly Numbers" screen, which featured the salary hike for Linda Tripp by the Defense Department to $90,767 from $88,173.


cyberno3.gif (1438 bytes)KATIECAP10-15.jpg (16458 bytes)The murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Wyoming hasn't led to widespread media claims of conservative culpability as happened after the Oklahoma City bombing. While the networks have aired many stories featuring activists advocating the need for a federal "hate crime" law, but no one with a different point of view, they have largely refrained from maligning an entire segment of the population or conservative leaders for the individual actions of a few.

     But there have been exceptions. Specifically, ABC's Bill Maher and NBC's Katie Couric.

     -- On Monday night's Politically Incorrect host Bill Maher segued into the murder: "And as far as the gay thing goes, you know, the Taliban -- I mean the Republican Party..."

     Maher pretty clearly implicated Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott in the murder: "I voted for Dole and I was pretty much behind that revolution in '94, back when they were all about economics. But I started talking about this on Friday. You know, between Bill Clinton and their hatred of gays, you know, it's no wonder that things like this happen. When you create an atmosphere that is so anti-sexual in this country, you know, yes, the borderline personalities like these idiots are going to hear it and pick up on it and say, 'Oh, you know what.'"

     Other panelists jumped in at that point, but later Maher blamed Congress for what the accused did: "When they hear Senators and Congressmen and people who they respect in an elevated position say that, you know, being gay is next to, you know, being the devil, of course, then they think, 'Well, you know, it's okay. I'm sort of doing the work of the Congress.'"

     -- NBC News picked up and ran with the left-wing's shots at conservatives, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens noticed on Tuesday. Opening the October 13 Today, co-host Katie Couric announced:
     "Then the fallout from the death of Matthew Shepard. The tragic beating of the college student in Wyoming has some activists in this country saying there is a climate of anti-gay hate that's been fostered by a provocative advertising campaign by the political right in this country. We're gonna get into that debate after news and weather."

     Introducing the subsequent segment, Couric stated: "On Close Up this morning, the beating death of Matthew Shepard. As investigators try to learn more about the reasons behind the murder of the openly gay University of Wyoming student NBC correspondent David Gregory reports it is sending shockwaves through the gay community."
     Gregory gave credence to the blaming of those not involved:
     "Even as friends of Matthew Shepard held a candlelight vigil in his honor gay rights groups rushed to condemn the killing. Portraying Shepard as a casualty of a new cultural war against gays and lesbians, a war declared this summer by a coalition of religious right groups including the Christian Coalition which funded advertisements in major newspapers and commercials on TV promoting a campaign to convert homosexuals to heterosexuality. The ads were controversial for portraying gays and lesbians as sinners who had made poor choices despite the growing belief that homosexuality may be genetic. And the campaign followed the divisive comments of Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott who said in an interview that homosexuals should be helped like alcoholics, sex addicts and kleptomaniacs."
     Trent Lott: "And you should not try to mistreat them or treat them as outcasts you should try to, you know, show them, a way to deal with that problem."
     Gregory: "Have the ads fostered a climate of anti-gay hate that leads to incidents like the killing of Matthew Shepard? Gay rights activists say the ads convey a message that gay people are defective."
     Kim Mills, Human Rights Campaign: "And those folks who are, kind of, on the cusp may just fall over into the wrong part of the world and go out and do terrible things."
     Kristi Hamrick, Family Research Council: "It is absolutely ridiculous to say that a loving message from 'The Truth and Love Campaign,' has had anything to do with this kind of violence because the centerpiece of this is that we care about you, we care about what happens to you."
     Gregory: "But the question remains. Have these campaigns to quote, 'save gays and lesbians,' made them easy targets instead or is what happened to Matthew Shepard in Wyoming last week a random act of hate that would have happened anyway? For Today, David Gregory, NBC News, Washington."

     Couric then allowed Elizabeth Birch of the Human Rights Campaign to elaborate on how the Christian Right is to blame and Janet Folger, Executive Director of the Center for Reclaiming America, to defend the ads her group created.

     The only thing defective is the reasoning of the liberals to whom NBC conveyed credibility. Even if you buy into the argument that the ads somehow incited murder, quite a stretch, how do we know the murderers ever saw the ads?

     After transcribing the story, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens talked with Kristen Hansen of the Family Research Council, part of the coalition behind the ads. Hansen explained that while the ads did appear in papers available in Wyoming, such as the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, the group has yet to buy a TV spot. Those accused are of college-age, the adult age group least-likely to read a newspaper. But they could have seen the ad on TV. How, if no ads were bought? In network stories condemning the ad campaign which featured an ad excerpt, like Gregory's on Tuesday's Today.

      If Couric, Gregory, Today producers and the Human Rights Campaign really think the ads are culpable, they should demand arrest warrants for accessory to murder for every network employee involved in airing the ads.


cyberno4.gif (1375 bytes) In August the Clinton family joined Walter Cronkite aboard his boat in Martha's Vineyard. Now Cronkite wants to get Ken Starr out on his boat so he can vent his anger at him for a probe that is "more divisive" than Vietnam. Out promoting his co-anchoring of CNN's coverage of John Glenn's return to space, Cronkite labeled the Clinton scandal "a private affair," reminiscing favorably about when the media ignored "personal peccadilloes."

      -- Here's a portion of Cronkite's October 13 interview with Mark McEwen on CBS's This Morning, as transcribed by MRC analyst Jessica Anderson:
      McEwen: "In earlier days, the President's private life with rumors of things that went on with the President and other people, that life was kept private. Was it a better time then? Were we better served by the way reporters handled it then, or are we better served now, where it seems like everything is fair game in the 90s?"
     Cronkite: "Oh, I think we were far better served then. The rule of thumb at that time, among us reporters who covered the White House and Congress, and state legislatures for that matter, the rule of thumb was that unless an individual's personal peccadilloes got in the way of performing the job, and seriously in a way, provable, provably that they were not able to perform their job, or endangered the public's welfare by what they were doing outside, we didn't pay any attention to it. Private lives were private lives, and I think that still ought to be the case. I don't think we should be digging into other people's private lives at all."
      McEwen: "Should President Clinton step down?"
      Cronkite: "No, I don't think so. It certainly would ease the affairs of state, perhaps, if he did, but on the other hand, I don't see why he should feel forced to do that because of his performance, which is certainly abominable and nothing that we can approve, but on the other hand, it does seem to me it's a private affair."

      -- In Wednesday's USA Today Peter Johnson summarized some comments Cronkite uttered later on Tuesday at a lunch with reporters in New York City:

      "Tuesday, Cronkite stopped short of calling special prosecutor Kenneth Starr a zealot, but he said Starr's probe of President Clinton's sex life may prove to be 'more divisive' than Vietnam.

      "The only question is 'how long can the American public stand it,' said Cronkite, 81, accusing Starr of 'considerable excessive zeal' in hounding Clinton about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. 'It's a desperate, sad situation,' he said....

      "Cronkite still refuses to discuss the sail [with Clinton in August], but says he'd 'like to get Kenneth Starr out on the boat,' presumably to give him a piece of his mind."

     The "most trusted man in America" can always be trusted to spout the conventional liberal thinking. -- Brent Baker

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